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#4 - JRL 7137
Russia Accused of Chechnyan Violations
April 8, 2003

GENEVA (AP) - Twenty-two European countries submitted a proposed resolution to the United Nations' top human rights body Tuesday accusing Russia of grave rights violations in the breakaway republic of Chechnya.

The resolution presented to the U.N. Human Rights Commission accuses Russia of forced disappearances, summary executions, torture and harassment during so-called sweep operations, when Russian troops comb areas they control to search for rebel holdouts.

The commission already has condemned Russia twice for abuses in Chechnya.

In 2000, Russia became the first permanent member of the U.N. Security Council to be censured by the commission for its human rights abuses. Moscow was condemned again in 2001 but escaped criticism last year when another European resolution was defeated by one vote.

The latest resolution was filed Tuesday by the 15-nation European Union and seven other European countries. It says Russia must do more to ``implement the rule of law in Chechnya and to secure transparency on any information concerning the above abuses.''

It notes, however, that Russia has taken steps to hold its forces accountable and President Vladimir Putin has sent a human rights envoy to the republic in southwestern Russia.

Russia claims that Chechen separatists are supported by international terrorists and has sought to portray the conflict as a campaign against terror. Officials acknowledge that abuses have taken place but say claims by human rights groups are overblown and the situation has improved.

The resolution says Russia has a right to fight terrorism but the battle ``must be conducted in accordance with the rule of law and with the utmost respect for human rights.''

In Moscow, Dmitry Rogozin, chairman of the international affairs committee in Russia's lower house of parliament, said the resolution was flawed.

``Different international organizations continue to speculate on Russia's problems in Chechnya, trying to render support to the defeated side,'' Rogozin said, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency.

The 53-nation human rights commission - of which Russia is a member - is expected to vote on the resolution next week. Censure brings no penalties but draws international attention to a country's rights record.

Russian troops pulled out of Chechnya in 1996 following a disastrous 20-month campaign against separatists who declared the republic independent earlier in the 1990s. The military returned in 1999 after rebel incursions into a neighboring region and a series of apartment house explosions in Russia blamed on rebels.

Although large-scale fighting has ended, there still are daily rebel raids. On Tuesday, a Russian armored personnel carrier hit a land mine in the Chechen capital and exploded, killing two soldiers and wounding four more.

Also Tuesday, three European Union officials led by Greek Ambassador to Russia Dimitrios Paraskevopoulos visited Chechnya on a fact-finding mission.

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